Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market Blueprint for the Future, Jun 2017

Rewarding consumers for improving reliability and security

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6.4 Rewarding consumers for improving reliability and security

Demand response by consumers plays a relatively small role in the NEM when compared with a number of other countries. New mechanisms could unlock the value of demand response actions by commercial and industrial consumers to the wholesale market. For residential consumers, the key challenge is how to coordinate millions of solar panels, storage systems, load management devices and other technologies in a way that best utilises the multiple services they can provide to improve reliability and security, and reduce costs.

Demand response involves consumers temporarily changing their usage of electricity at times of peak demand in response to signals to do so. There are a number of different types of demand response, each with different consumer motivations and impacts on consumers’ energy consumption.

Demand response can improve reliability and reduce wholesale prices

Using demand response to incentivise consumers to reduce their demand at peak times is often cheaper, and faster to implement, than building new generation and networks to meet the peak.

Even small amounts of demand response can avoid costly, involuntary load shedding. It allows consumers to assess the value of consuming electricity versus compensation for reducing consumption. By contrast, involuntary load shedding imposes the full cost of being shed on certain consumers with no compensation or prior warning.

Box 6.2 – Case study – How demand response can reduce the risk of involuntary load shedding and save consumers money318

A recent demand management trial conducted by Mojo offered consumers savings if they voluntarily reduced their demand during the February 2017 heatwave in NSW. This occurred at a time when the wholesale market was forecast to hit the market price cap of $14,000 per MWh and AEMO had advised of a risk of involuntary load shedding.

In the trial, Mojo texted 500 of its NSW consumers who had smart meters in the early afternoon of 10 February 2017 asking if they wanted to receive a credit of at least $25 on their bill to reduce their energy use between 4 and 6 pm that day. Mojo states that a high proportion of consumers responded positively and participated by turning off or down their air conditioners and pool pumps. Smart meter data was used to measure the value of their response in reducing Mojo’s wholesale market exposure during that period. Consumers’ demand reductions allowed Mojo to save on wholesale energy costs and Mojo shared those savings with consumers, with each customer receiving between $25 and $140.

Figure 6.2 shows the load profiles of the top 10 per cent of Mojo’s demand response customers and shows the dramatic reduction in their consumption between 4 and 6pm.

Figure 6.2: Demand response by Mojo customers on 10 February 2017

figure 6.2 shows the load profiles of the top 10 per cent of mojo’s demand response customers. it shows demand from the grid between 3:00 am and 12:00 am on 10 february 2017. for each customer, grid demand varies over the day between just below zero and 13 kilowatts. between 3:30 pm and 4:00 pm all customers have demand between 5 and 13 kilowatts. following the commencement of demand response at 4:00 pm all consumers drop to near zero demand. when demand response incentives end at 6:00 pm demand steadily returns to normal.

While some residential consumers are responsive to price signals, evidence from other countries suggests that this is difficult to maintain over time. Demand response is best achieved when the consumer is not required to manually respond, but the demand reduction is orchestrated by a service provider who has an agreement with the consumer covering the terms under which their demand can be curtailed or shifted. The service provider can then manage the load over many consumers aggregating a total amount of load that can have a material impact on the reliability of the NEM or a specific local distribution area.

Box 6.3 – Case study – Network business demand response programs

Some network businesses have begun to use new technologies to offer programs that help reduce peak demand and network costs, with consumers rewarded for participating.

For example, Energex offers a PeakSmart program for air conditioners, which enables these devices to reduce their energy consumption during periods of high demand. Air conditioners at participating households are fitted with a signal receiver.319 At times of high demand on the network, a signal is sent from the Energex control centre, which reduces the device's energy consumption for a brief period of time. Households can claim a rebate of up to $400 off the cost of the air conditioner for participating in the program.

There are currently low levels of demand response in the NEM. A 2016 survey for the AEMC suggested there is only around 235 MW of demand response under contract to retailers, mostly involving exposure to the wholesale market spot price.320 The same report estimated that 2,000 MW of load in the NEM is price responsive – that is, those consumers would be willing to reduce demand in response to a cost saving.321

A 2014 report for the Australian Government suggested that, with a realistic incentive of a 5 to 15 per cent reduction of a company’s annual electricity bill, 1,700 MW of demand response could be available from industry.322 Interviews undertaken for that report identified a number of barriers to industry offering demand reduction, notably a lack of incentives and mechanisms to do so, a lack of expertise within the companies interviewed, and the fact that management priorities within these companies are focussed elsewhere.

In 2015, the Energy Council submitted a rule change request to the AEMC proposing the introduction of a wholesale market demand response mechanism and the unbundling of ancillary services from energy services to enable different parties to offer each service to a single consumer. The AEMC decided not to introduce the proposed mechanism on the basis that it would be costly to implement and that consumers can already contract with retailers and specialist providers, and can choose to be exposed to the wholesale market spot price through their retail contract.323 As discussed below, the AEMC made a different rule to the rule requested by the Energy Council in relation to the ancillary services unbundling part of the request.

ARENA and AEMO have recently announced plans to trial a new demand response initiative. The three-year program will be trialled in South Australia and Victoria to pay consumers to temporarily reduce their demand to help manage peak demand. Consumers that participate in the trial will receive payments funded by ARENA to be on standby to reduce their demand when requested by AEMO.324

Given the potential value of demand response to address reliability constraints and reduce wholesale prices, increased mechanisms should be available for demand-side resources to offer these services to the market. If unscheduled participation in the wholesale market as proposed in the 2015 rule change is not appropriate, there are other options in use around the world, including demand response participation in reliability markets in New York and Texas. The important thing is that a suitable option capable of unlocking the vital benefits of demand response is chosen.

Recommendation 6.7

The COAG Energy Council should direct the Australian Energy Market Commission to undertake a review to recommend a mechanism that facilitates demand response in the wholesale energy market. This review should be completed by mid-2018 and include a draft rule change proposal for consideration by the COAG Energy Council.

The ability of demand response to provide system security benefits

Demand response can also improve power system security by providing fast response services to manage changes in frequency. Compared to some overseas markets, the NEM currently has very little demand response participating in frequency control markets.325

This may change following a rule change made by the AEMC in November 2016, which is intended to reduce barriers to using demand response to provide frequency control services.326 The rule change establishes a new type of market participant – a market ancillary service provider – who can offer ancillary services loads into frequency control markets. This will allow parties other than the consumer’s retailer to offer ancillary services demand response to consumers, which is expected to facilitate the entry of new providers for these services. This rule commences on 1 July 2017.

The orchestration of distributed energy resources

DER and demand response provide a range of services that are valued by different parties in the electricity supply chain. For example, a battery could be used by a consumer to reduce their retail bill, by a network business to reduce network peak demand, or by a participant in the wholesale market to provide energy or ancillary services. A battery could also be used as a source of backup power to avoid blackouts, or as a way to improve power quality to reduce voltage and frequency fluctuations. A single battery could potentially be used to provide all of these services at different times.

Energy Networks Australia and CSIRO estimate that by 2050, just considering the network benefits from DER, the increased uptake of consumer-owned generation has the potential for (in real terms):327

$16 billion in network investments being avoided.

Residential consumers saving more than $400 per year compared to the business as usual. Though any material reductions are likely to occur over the longer term.

Industrial, commercial and residential consumers receiving a total of $2.5 billion per year in payments for providing grid support services.

The efficient use of all of these services requires coordination and cooperation between a range of parties, for example, across generation, networks and retail. This can be challenging, especially when it involves not just optimising the use of one large battery, but instead coordinating the efficient use of thousands of small batteries located at consumers’ houses. To get the full value of DER, their dispatch needs to be coordinated or ‘orchestrated’ so that it is sufficiently material.

There are a variety of ways that this orchestration can occur. Using a large number of households with solar panels and storage devices as an example:

The devices could be owned by the consumers, who could contract with an aggregator whose role is to coordinate the output of the devices. The aggregator could trade energy and ancillary services on the wholesale market (or partner with a generator who does so) and enter into agreements with network businesses to supply network support services. The aggregator could use the prices of each of these services and the value to the consumer of self-consumption of energy to determine which service to supply at any time.

The devices could be owned by the consumer’s retailer, or the retailer could supply them to the consumer at a discount in return for the consumer allowing the retailer to control the devices in certain circumstances. As above, the retailer could trade energy and ancillary services and enter into network support agreements with network businesses.

The devices could be owned by a transmission or distribution network business, or a related entity of the business. The network business could use the device to provide network support services as an alternative to augmenting the network. The network could also enter into agreements with a third party to use the devices to trade energy and ancillary services.

There is currently limited use of these types of arrangements in the NEM, with their deployment mainly being limited to small-scale trials. One example of such a trial is set out in Box 6.4.

It is important that network prices better signal the value of these services in reducing network costs, and that the wholesale market values new services that emerging technologies can provide such as very fast frequency response services.

Box 6.4 – Case study – Orchestration of solar and storage to provide multiple services328

AGL Energy has launched a Virtual Power Plant trial in South Australia with funding from ARENA. Over the next three years, AGL plans to have 1,000 smart, connected energy storage devices installed at homes and small businesses in Adelaide. Less than six months into the trial more than half the systems have been sold and a substantial fraction of these are already installed and operational.

When aggregated, the batteries will act like a 5 MW peaking power station that can be called upon to provide services to the grid. The project will demonstrate at a commercial scale the value that DER can provide to three groups of people:

Consumers can use the batteries to self-consume more of their solar power by storing energy produced during the day that might otherwise be exported at a low price per kWh to the grid, saving them money over purchasing electricity at a high price per kWh.

Retailers can benefit from reduced wholesale energy costs during peak periods, and through using the battery to sell frequency control services into the wholesale market.

In the future, networks can benefit from reducing network peak demand and voltage management services, potentially avoiding future network infrastructure expenditure.

Importantly, all consumers stand to benefit from such an arrangement through reduced network costs and improved reliability and security.

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